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Harness the power of a masterful presentation

With Steve Carroll, REA Group

Most of us need help to create and deliver compelling, emotionally engaging and uplifting presentations. Master story teller and brilliant communicator, Steve Carroll, the Director of Industry Relations at REA Group has presented literally thousands of times - to the Board of REA Group, at thousands at real estate industry events and to handfuls of people. He believes the rules for a persuasive and influential presentation are the same whether you are presenting to thousands on the stage at the Gold Coast Convention Centre or trying to win the business in a client’s lounge room. He shares some of his top tips for nailing a fantastic and memorable presentation.

1. Prepare, Prepare and Prepare

Steve is of the firm belief that winning presentations start with adequate and detailed preparation. Steve has done it all - presented to different audiences from board members and big customers such as REINSW, to groups of 600 to crowds of 3,000 or 4,000. He says, “You do not go into those types of presentations ill prepared.” He caters to each audience, thinks about what they might want and does in depth research to give himself a head start. He says, “If you're prepared, then the chances are you'll get the right tool out of the toolbox and it'll be relevant.” He adds, “When presenting to the Board and senior executives, preparation is absolutely key. They are incredibly busy people and they expect people like me to come prepared with the content that they want to listen to and if they have questions, they expect me to know the answers."

2. Know your key message

Ensure that you know the key messages that you want to leave the client with.

Ask yourself:

Who is your audience? What do they think?

What is your aim? What do you want the audience to understand afterwards?

If you had to explain your presentation in one statement, what would that be?

Remember Albert Einstein said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.” So keep working at developing your own understanding, because once you do, you will be able to clearly express your key message.

3. Understand that people consume information differently - Play to your audience

Always remember that some people like all the details whereas others just want the key points. He explains, ”Some people like to be communicated to in a very visual way and they like to see things. Some people like to receive information in an auditory way, so they don't want visuals, they just want the hard facts. Some people are very touchy feely. I call them kinaesthetic people and they like to flip through pages, they like to touch, they like to feel, and so on and so forth. It doesn't matter how big or small the audience is, try and figure out what type of style they want to be communicated in because if you can nail that one, then the communication works."

4. Look for an emotionally engaging story line

The most powerful presentations are ones that emotionally resonate with audiences. Steve says, “Whatever presentation you do, you need to take the audience on a journey. It has to be a story. If you take people on a journey, they can see where you're going and if they feel that the story is benefiting them, they'll continue to listen."

5. Trust Yourself

Don’t hide behind reams of notes and cards, looking at them all the time for reassurance. Practise and trust yourself that you have the ability within yourself to carry a room. Free yourself. Steve says, “When I did my first load of training in London, it was really interesting because my bosses took me down to a big theatre in the West End of London and I was asked to do a presentation using notes and so on and so forth. Then the coach said, ‘You do the same presentation without notes’. That was such a daunting task, but do you know what? Actually being free of notes and talking from the heart and using eye contacts and body language, I just loved it. Wonderful."

One of the reasons why we all loved Steve Jobs’ amazing presentations was because cards never distracted him. When Jobs introduced the world to the iPhone, it lasted about 80 minutes. Not once did he read from a teleprompter or notecards. He spoke inspirationally and easily. Seemingly off the cuff. His ease, in fact, came from hours of practise. Jobs would spend months preparing and rehearsing for public appearances – and it paid off.

6. Find your own magic and voice

Steve says, “Every single one of us has some magic within us that is our unique selling point and you've got to figure out what that is and you've got to play on it as best as you possibly can. If you try and pretend to be somebody or something you're not, you're going to be on a loser. My advice to all people who are presenting is find out what you're very, very good at and just hone in on that and show the person that you're presenting to the real you. If they see authenticity seeping through your body, do you know what? You're onto a winner."

7. Ditch powerpoint and draw on the power of photographs and video

Steve is not a fan of Powerpoint and slide after slide of dot points and text. He is adamant, “I'll tell you one thing that is a no-no and that is death by Powerpoint.” He is very conscious of what resonates with an audience and truly believes in the power of being authentic, of sharing his expertise and using images to inspire and educate. He says, “An audience who comes to listen to Steve Carroll - they want to see me. They want to tap into my expertise. They don't want me to use streams and streams of text to communicate. That doesn't work. Video and photography paint 1,000 pictures."

8. Pace, Match and Lead

Steve believes passion is essential to success. He says, “The best agents that I see and the best account managers that have worked for me have passion. 

They just have bags of passion. The other thing they have is, when you're in one on ones with them, you're the most important person at that time. You've got to match passion because if I'm speaking to somebody who is a gentle, quiet, placid type of person, think about someone selling their house who fits that category. If I go in there boom, boom, boom, there's a mismatch. You have got to be prepared to pace and match and then lead."

9. Think about gestures and how you are perceived

Make the most of your hands, eyes and smile – and make sure they are communicating the right message. Hand gestures in fact, it may be surprising to learn, make people listen to you. A researcher at Colgate University found that gestures are not merely add-ons to language – they may actually be a fundamental part of it. Just make sure you use the right gestures.

Steve says, “Eyes are so important. Catching people's attention through the eyes is so, so powerful. I think that if you're a recipient of communication and the person who’s giving the communication has eye contact that's poor, I think there's a disconnect in the communication. I think a smile is also important. A smile is something that people notice. People who have nice smiles - you remember them. Hands are also very important because I think that if you use your hands well and you've got what I call friendly gestures and that complements the smile and complements the eyes, do you know what? You're onto a winner. If you find yourself using aggressive hand language - pointing, that doesn't work well, That coupled with poor eye contact, you're not going to the get the business."

Steve’s greatest secret is that when he is doing a presentation, he writes on the palm of his hands the word ‘hands’. He explains, "When I'm on stage, if I say hands, it just reminds me to focus on open hand gestures rather than closed hand gestures. Often, I'll do a presentation and because I'm a pretty big fella and I've got a fairly loud voice, if my hand gestures and body language are aggressive, I'll sometimes finish a presentation - whether or not it's one on one or a one on three or one on 400 - and think ‘I could've toned down the body language’."

10. Get someone you trust to assess your presentations and constantly reflect and act

Steve has a professional presentation coach Julie Masters who critiques all his presentations. He says, “Every single month, Julie critiques all of my presentations. Whenever I speak at any event, it's recorded and my coach will critique it and she will look at small things that will make the next presentation better. Sometimes Julie will say to me, ‘When you say that next time, Steve, just pause for an extra second. Let the audience hear, consume what you just said, and then move on’. That extra one second - you can just see the impact it has."

He finds reflection useful because it means he can find areas in which he can improve. Over-talking is an area he works on. He explains, “When I reflect, I think, ‘Well, I could've done better’. I may have been asked a question and I gave the answer - but then over complicated the answer. Often, less is more. I've learned that time and time again. Often, when I have a session with my presentation coach, she'll say, ‘I want you to practise what you said, which took you a minute. I want you to practise saying exactly the same in 20 seconds’. Do you know what? You can do it. You take 40 seconds out of the content and you have a better impact because you've said the same message in a shorter period of time. I think that for me is a big one."

It takes time to develop the confidence and loads of practise to create engaging presentations, but once you do, you will be an outstanding and effective communicator.

About Steve Carroll

As Director of Sales for the REA Group for seven years, Steve was responsible for a talented sales team of 70+ serving over 15,000 very important customers operating in NSW, QLD, ACT and NT. He is now Director of Industry Relations for the REA Group. Having received extensive presentation skills coaching in London and Sydney, he is renowned for his educational and entertaining presentations on how businesses and individuals can maximise their digital and social media footprint. During 2018, he will be speaking at AREC and hosting Momentum with Tom Panos in over 20 locations across Australia.


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